“Charging Becoming the New Maintenance”, Says AFP

Date: 13th June 2023

Electric vehicle (EV) charging is replacing maintenance as the most onerous day-to-day managerial task facing many fleet managers, says the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP).

Chair Paul Hollick explained that in terms of working to maximise operational efficiency and minimise costs, feedback from members showed that charging was taking up huge amounts of time.

“In the last few years, maintenance has been the main everyday issue facing fleet managers. The fleet car and van parcs have been ageing at a fairly rapid pace while workshop capacity has been stretched and parts availability has been patchy.

“However, we now seem to be in a position where charging is taking over and there’s a wide variety of reasons for this. It’s not an exaggeration to say that charging is becoming the new maintenance in terms of the huge amount of attention it demands.”

The issues being encountered are wide ranging, he explained, and often there are no easy answers, with temporary solutions being employed.

“The biggest problems are seen by businesses operating EVs where drivers have no home or depot charging. This means they are relying on the public infrastructure which, in its current state, presents a whole series of difficulties that fleet managers and their drivers are working to resolve every day.

“The first of these is simply accessibility. That means finding chargers where they are needed, hopefully not having to queue and also ensuring that the bays are large enough to take electric vans. Ticking these three boxes on a day-to-day basis is proving demanding for many of our members at this point in time.

“Of course, there is also a desire to minimise the cost of charging which, especially on motorways, can be prohibitive, but that is the fourth factor on the list for most fleets. The important thing is to keep EVs moving.

“There is a strong argument that the difficulties being encountered are very much a product of this moment in time, where the charging infrastructure is not yet up to the demands being placed on it. However, that situation is likely to persist for several years to come and we don’t necessarily see life getting much easier for fleets and their drivers in the medium term.”

Paul added that where EV users had their own charging, life for fleet managers tended to be easier but even that brought its own issues.

“There are other problems. For example, reimbursement is proving an issue, especially with the Advisory Electric Rate remaining too low for the majority of EVs and the actual cost alternative being quite difficult to calculate. Technical solutions are emerging for the latter but obviously have not yet been approved by everyone.”

There are easy technical solutions arriving for actual cost reimbursement of home charging and that’s great but where rates being paid, especially with the Advisory Electric Rate remaining too low for the majority of EVs, businesses are having to find their own, fairer solutions.

“There is also the question of who should pay for installation of home chargers although, at the AFP conference, credible figures were quoted showing that the cost can be recouped by employers in a matter of a few months through the savings in charging costs, so that decision should be relatively easy.”

The AFP was actively working to support its members through these difficulties, Paul added, sharing everything from best practice ideas to temporary solutions, and working on an updated version of its postcode charging map, details about which would be unveiled soon.

“Our members are working together closely on charging and it is very much an area that shows the practical value of being part of the AFP.”